Blog: Time to celebrate and look after our young members

This young workers month, let’s listen and support one of the fastest growing groups of our membership and ensure they don’t pay the price of the pandemic

November is young workers’ month, a time to celebrate the contributions of young workers to the trade union movement, and to highlight the issues they face in the workplace. And this year the month is more important than ever.

UNISON represents over 66,000 young workers and we know the importance of the work they do. They’ve been on the frontline of the pandemic, working in the NHS, caring for the elderly and vulnerable  and keeping our essential public services running.

But we know that all too often young people have not been valued enough in the workplace. Young workers are more likely to be low-paid, in insecure work or on zero-hours contracts.

We believe all workers should have secure, well-paid jobs, no matter what age they are. We’ve led the fight for a real living wage for all, we’ve campaigned to get rid of youth rates for the minimum wage, and last year we launched the Young Workers Charter calling for high quality jobs for young people where they feel valued and supported.

And we’re also currently calling for a fair pay deal for workers in the NHS who have faced so many risks during the coronavirus pandemic.

But we also want to make sure that young workers have a bright future to look forward to. Many young people are worried about losing their jobs, about development opportunities and training programmes being cut, and about apprenticeships being paused. Without government action unemployment among young people will soar.

It’s no wonder then that our young members also tell us that mental health is a big issue for them. Everyone has come under unprecedented pressure this year – whether they’re experiencing the extreme stress of providing essential care and services in emergency conditions, or whether they’re suffering the isolation of working from home.

We believe mental health is a trade union issue, and across the country we’ve campaigned for better working conditions and workplaces that are safe and healthy.

UNISON wants to make sure that young people don’t pay the price for the pandemic. The post-COVID economic recovery must ensure that young workers are not left behind.

That means well-funded public services, where young workers feel valued and supported. It means fair pay deals and continuing the fight for a living wage for all. It means funding our further education sector properly so that young people can gain the skills they need.

But it also means making sure that young members’ voices are heard in our union, as they are the ones who will experience the long-term consequences of the decisions made now.

Young members are one of the fastest growing areas of UNISON’s membership – in the first half of this year young membership of UNISON grew by 4.6%. Thousands of young people recognise the importance of being in a union to fight for a better future. It’s essential their voices are heard.

So this young workers’ month, let’s remember that in every branch and every region there are young members playing an active part in UNISON – supporting other workers, campaigning for better pay and conditions, and speaking up for a better deal for all workers.

Let’s make sure that we listen and support them.